Mike Orlov, the former ad director of the Standard, joins Express Newspapers next week to build a classified and display sales force for the as-yet-unnamed title.
His appointment comes amid a court case brought by Associated, seeking to stop Express Newspapers using the word "Mail" on the masthead of its new title. However, some believe Desmond's working title of The London Evening Mail was a deliberate ruse to wind-up his rival while other titles were being considered.
Desmond has said that the launch of an evening title will only happen when a means of distribution is settled upon. He has asked the Office of Fair Trading to investigate the monopoly Associated has on distributing its titles on the London Underground.
No firm date has been set for a launch and in a recent industry dinner speech Desmond offered: "Expect to see London's newest evening paper when you least expect it."
Industry speculation has mounted that the launch is unlikely to happen. However, Orlov's appointment, following that of the celebrity editor Nick Ferrari, suggests that Desmond is serious.
Orlov left his role at the Evening Standard last November following the departure of the managing director, Sally de la Bedoyere, and the arrival of Mike Anderson to replace her.
Stan Myerson, Northern & Shell's joint group managing director, said: "Many advertisers have indicated that they would welcome competition in the London market in the interests of improving value for money. We have a fantastic opportunity and I believe that Orlov is the right man to lead the charge and to bring in revenues."
Orlov said: "I'm looking forward to making my contribution and making a difference to the shape of the advertising market targeting London consumers."
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